Jan 31

You may wonder what films we’ve been watching the last month. I got the Clint Eastwood collection for Christmas, and with some added additional Eastwood films (such as the No Name Spaghetti Westerns), worked through most of the filmography of Clint Eastwood. Clint primarily portrayed two characters, the first being the silent cowboy who shows up from nowhere and disappears into the sunset. In the meantime, he could shoot a handgun with precise accuracy and immense speed, thus terminating all opponents. His western films would be labeled revisionist, in that the good guys were the indians and the outlaws, and the bad guys were the government officials. Older westerns would have a moral theme, but revisionist westerns remain morally ambiguous. Thus, John Wayne would typically refuse to star in Eastwood’s films as an objection to the revisionist genre (although John Wayne rarely portrayed a morally pure character himself).

The other character of Clint is the quiet cop or detective who bucks authority, somehow seems to have the criminal figured out beforehand, usually has incompetent bosses and political figures telling him what to do, and Clint eventually solving the issue by working around the authority, usually terminating the criminals.

A lesser character of Clint seen is later years is the cranky old man, who knows better, but has to put up with the younger crowd. Such movies as Million Dollar Man and Gran Torino fit this category. Clint often has religious scenes, usually Catholic, many of them with him contending with the priest, or going against the advice of the priest. In a very strong way, Eastwood suggests that being mister tough guy and standing up for yourself is the most important thing in life. All of his movies, regardless of his role, portray this character and theme. Sadly, as good as many of Clint’s films are, they all fail to offer any suggestion of a higher morality or virtue. It is just another form of Nietzsche’s Übermensch. Hitler would have loved Clint’s films.

I find that except for the spaghetti westerns and Dirty Harry series, Clint’s early films are generally quite bad. There is a significant improvement in the quality of his later films, though even then a moderate number are not worth watching a second time.

These films are reviewed mostly in the order in which they were watched, which was in alphabetical order. The chronological order would have been a more natural way to watch his films, but the alphabetical order allowed for a better mix-up of Clint’s films. Because of the length of this post, it is given in three sections.

 

Absolute Power ★★★★★

This is one of Eastwood’s later films, and is a mishmash of the Nixon scandal mixed with the scandals of the Clinton administration.  The president is observed by a break-in artist (Clint Eastwood) in a rape/murder, which is covered up by the secret service. Realizing that he (Clint) cannot go to the police to report the crime, he then devises the means of bringing down the president. The action is fast and suspenseful, and the plot is unpredictable but a touch realistic.

 

Any Which Way You Can ★

Clint Eastwood is a retired prize fighter, now pursued by the syndicate to do one last fight, against his own personal will. He, his orangutan, and girl friend eventually resolve matters. This is supposed to be a comedy, but we didn’t find it to be very funny, and really didn’t have any significant plot or objective.

 

Bird ★

Clint Eastwood does not star in this film. It is supposed to be a biographical sketch of Charlie Parker, one of the great Jazz saxophonists of the past. The action is very slow moving, and is constantly taking chronological jumps as Charlie relives his past before committing suicide. Betsy and I were unable to endure more than 40 minutes of this film.

 

Blood Work ★★★★

Clint Eastwood as aging FBI officer has a massive heart attack while chasing a man and requires a heart transplant. He eventually learns that the heart came from a murder victim, whose sister is now asking Clint to solve the case. The plot is great with multiple unexpected turns until the case is solved.

 

Bridges of Madison County ★★

The Red Green Show once commented that the Bridges of Madison County failed as a movie since nobody was killed, and none of the bridges were blown up. There is truth to that statement. The only reason this movie received two stars is that the acting by both Clint Eastwood and Meryl Streep was superb. Two middle aged people are going through the remains of their just-deceased mother, and discover that many years ago she had an affair. This affair is the main body of film, which occurred when a photographer (Clint) stops at a farmhouse asking directions to a bridge. The remainder of the family is off to the Illinois State Fair, and so she then spends the next four days in an increasing relation with him and they separate for good. Many parts of the film go so slow that we had to fast forward them. It was torture to watch this film. The message of the film unavoidably states that anything is okay as long as nobody finds out. The higher values of truth and purity are forgotten.  This is not a film worth watching.

 

Bronco Billy ★★

Clint Eastwood stars in Bronco Billy, the ex-convict who is now head of a roving circus cowboy show. It’s a rather lame film, with various characters getting in trouble with themselves and the law, mixed in with a somewhat spastic rich lady whose husband runs off on her, and she is left to live with the low lives of the circus until she realizes that they have something she doesn’t have with her wealth.

 

Changeling ★★★★★

This is the last film Clint Eastwood produced, and he does not star in the film. Supposedly, this film is based off of a true event. Angela Jolie is a single mother with a 9 yo son in 1928 Los Angeles. The son is kidnapped, leading Angela to seek for the child using the LAPD. A child is produced, which is very clearly not the son, even though the LAPD insists that it is. When Angela pushes the issue, she is committed to an insane asylum. Through the work of a Presbyterian pastor who was fighting corruption in the police system, she is released, and eventually a reasonable clue is found as to what happened to her son. This movie is unusual for Clint Eastwood, in that Eastwood’s characters are usually police that take the law in their own hands since the city and courts are incapable of that function. The roles are here reversed, where the police are found to be too aggressive. The common theme in Clint’s movies is the ultimate corruption in government, and this point is well made in this movie. It is only wishful thinking to imagine that matters aren’t any better nowadays – just different.

 

City Heat ★★

Burt Reynolds is a private detective, and Clint a police lieutenant, Clint rescuing Burt from various entanglements of the syndicate, in a film set within big city gangster town of the prohibition 20’s. Clint definitely proves a better actor than Burt in this otherwise very mediocre film.

 

Coogan’s Bluff ★★

Clint Eastwood is an Arizona cop sent to NY to return a criminal that he caught (how he got to NY wasn’t explained) to bring back to Arizona for trial. In the process, the NY police give him great grief, the criminal gets away, and Clint goes on a lengthy manhunt process independent of the NY detective agency. Clint tends to sexually attack every female that comes into his presence, which I guess makes him cool.

 

Beguiled ★★

Clint Eastwood is now a wounded union soldier, who ends up in a private girls school at the end of the civil war. The head mistress ends up keeping him and nursing him back to health, all the while preparing him to be picked up by confederate soldiers to be hauled off to prison to die. Meanwhile, he falls in love with a number of the girls in the school, and is caught making love to one of the older students. This leads to a series of tragedies since he was caught, ultimately leading to his demise. Poor Clint.

 

Dead Pool ★★★★★

Clint stars in the last of the Dirty Harry series, and this film is at his mature best. Lists of celebrities were published with wagers as to the greatest number of people who would be dead in a given span of time. Started as an innocent game, it turned bad when it was realized that somebody was individually picking off characters on the list. Dirty Harry happens to be on the list, and proceeds to eventually find the killer and terminate him. A second story line is Clint having to contend with the press, including an obnoxious female.

 

Dirty Harry ★★★★★

This is the first Dirty Harry film with Clint Eastwood. A sniper if knocking off people in the city of San Francisco, with a monetary ransom to have the killing stopped.  The killer and Clint interact, and then is released on legal technicalities. The killer then frames Clint for police brutality. Eventually the killer hijacks a school bus with children, only to be rescued by the ever-resourceful Dirty Harry.

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